The Coward Revealed in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman

The Coward Revealed in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman

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The Coward Revealed in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman    


In the play Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller, the main character, Willy Loman, is a struggling salesman. Willy Loman is a complex character who confuses illusion with reality. In a way, Willy has two personalities in this play. The one we see in the present action is a tired man in his sixties. The other Willy is the one we see in flashbacks. He is young and confident.

In Act Two, Scene Fourteen, Willy’s son Biff tells him that he loves him. Willy can tell that Biff is not just saying this out of pity because Biff is sobbing. In a flashback, Willy speaks to his dead brother Ben. Ben keeps saying "Time, William, Time", reminding him that suicide is closing in. Ben also tells Willy that he should come to the jungle. In this scene, the jungle represents opportunities for success. The reason that Ben tells Willy to come to the jungle, is that when in the jungle, Willy can get the diamonds. The diamonds represent the insurance money that the family will get from Willy’s accident. Therefore, Ben is saying that the only way Willy can get twenty thousand dollars in insurance money is to kill himself, or symbolically Ben is saying that the only way to get the diamonds is to enter the jungle. Willy also talks to Ben how great Biff would do with all of that money.

Willy thinks one more time about Biff and how he was a great football player. This shows that Willy still thinks of Biff as a football hero, which is one of the reasons Willy thinks Biff is so magnificent. As Willy is finishing up his thoughts, his wife, Linda, is calling him to come up to bed. After this happens, the sound of a speeding car is heard driving off into the night. In the same scene, Willy’s wife Linda has come to make a peace with their two sons, Biff and Happy. Linda also suspects that Willy may kill himself. She made a big mistake by leaving the disturbed Willy alone. The rubber tubing that Linda found on the heater foreshadows Willy’s suicide. Linda doesn’t want Willy to kill himself, but believes that she cannot interfere with his business.

I believe that Willy’s suicide was an escape from shame. He couldn’t keep living his life as a lie.

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Willy could not face reality. When people talked to him, he only heard what he wanted to hear. He was a very distracted and disturbed man. After losing his job, he felt he was too unsuccessful to go on living. His principles in life were based on being popular. He believed that if you were popular, you would be successful. Eventually, he faced reality and realized that he was not popular. A combination of his shame and his unpopularity is what killed Willy Loman. He felt like a failure.

From Willy’s point of view, the suicide was an act of love. He believed that by killing himself, Biff would be much more successful. Willy thinks that Biff is magnificent and wants to show it to him by giving him twenty thousand dollars in insurance money. A problem could arise here because it is not even certain that Willy’s suicide will be called an accident. If the insurance company sees it as a suicide, Biff will not get the money.

From the family’s point of view, the suicide was very confusing. Each member of the family had a different idea of why Willy killed himself. Linda was wondering why no one had come to the funeral. This shows that Linda had always trusted Willy and had believed all of the phony dreams that Willy had told her. Linda had reason to believe that Willy killed himself because of the mortgage payments. This is very ironic because after Willy killed himself, the house was paid off and they were free and clear of any more payments. Biff comes to realize that Willy had "the wrong dreams". Biff is still going to go out west to fulfill his own dreams instead of making himself big in New York which is something he hates. Happy believes that his father was a great man. He wants to prove that Willy did not die in vain. He will justify Willy’s dreams by being manager of the store. It seems that Happy is almost becoming another Willy.

I believe that Willy’s suicide was a cowardly act. Since he was fired, he felt that he had no reason to live. It seemed that the only thing that mattered to Willy was success and money. When he didn’t have either of those things, he did the only thing he felt he could do and that was to take his own life for sum of twenty thousand dollars. Willy did not give much thought as to how his family would feel after killing himself. He only thought about the money they would possibly get from the insurance company. I feel he took the coward’s way out by killing himself instead of trying to solve his problems.

Willy Loman thought his suicide was a courageous act. He thought he was being very brave by killing himself. He felt that he took the hard way out. Willy may have thought that he was the only one to suffer. His confusion between illusion and reality was very strong at the end of the play. He thinks he is going into the jungle to get diamonds but in reality, he is killing himself to get insurance money.

Biff saw Willy’s suicide as a cowardly act. He realized that all of Willy’s dreams were wrong, and that Willy had the wrong perspective on life. By committing suicide, Willy took the easy way out. Biff still will miss his father but he will not let his sorrow overcome him.

In conclusion, Willy Loman was a very confused and disturbed man. He would look into the past to see where he made his mistakes. He suffered from delusions. By killing himself, he is portrayed as a coward who certainly had his priorities confused.
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